Smorgasburg in Twenty Dollars or Less: Week Three

July 7, 2012 2:35 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Smorgasburg, a weekly summer food festival located in beautiful East River State Park (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

It's called Smorgasburg, and it's a food festival that's everything the Great GoogaMooga failed to be: excellent. Every Saturday from 11 AM to 6 PM, theBrooklyn Flea-sponsored event gathers hundreds of unique food vendors from some of the hippest, tastiest spots all across the city (read: you never have to go to Red Hook again) to shack up at beautiful East River State Park and showcase their stuff to a worthy gathering of weekend warriors. Given that you could easily spend too many hours and serious dough trying everything here, and considering how many of our friends have told us they've tried to go but been overwhelmed by all the selections, we're going to curate the experience for you: every week, we're going to try as many different vendors as we can, without repeating and without spending over twenty dollars.

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Week Three:

Well, things are a little different this week. For one thing, the sun seems to be really, really angry at us. Maybe it's because Damages is in its final season, or maybe it's just upset that it can't come to Smorgasburg without killing everyone. Either way, the heat today is tremendous-- and though there was a big showing at Smorgasburg today, the park felt under-attended by patron and vendor alike.

I needed something cold and I needed it fast.

Blue Bottle Iced Coffee - $4

Blue Bottle Coffee is Brooklyn's worst-kept secret. Whenever I show up at the store, which is hardly ever because of how long the gosh darn line is-- even during off-peak hours-- I'm always surprised at how many people from the other boroughs are there as well. I guess that's because their New Orleans Style Iced Coffee makes the case for one of the most delicious brews in town. Strong, lightly sweetened, and spiced with just enough chicory, it's a stellar way to start your day. Add some Jameson to it on your own and it's a stellar way to end it, too. There's hardly ever a line for it at Smorgasburg, so now's your chance to get some without waiting.

I got mine with soy milk, because-- in the indefatigable wisdom of Ron Burgundy-- regular milk would have been a poor choice on a day like today.

Anarchy in a Jar - Two Jams - $10

With a name like Anarchy in a Jar, you're either in Brooklyn or Portland. And no offense to my second-favorite city in the nation, but I'm happy to be in Brooklyn.

Continuing in the tradition of "nothing that calls attention to how god-awful hot it is," I went over to their little preserves stand that's been calling my name since I started going to the festival. While they sell home-made pop tarts filled with their jam for $4 each, I wanted to try their jam first before committing to a whole pastry filled with it.

These people are no stranger to the neighborhood. Everyone who's anyone carries them-- and yes, I'm talking about Radish and the Bedford Cheese Shop. So they know that the way to get people to come on over to you is by offering a ton of freebies-- in this case, delicious fresh-baked bread. Protip: If you have a gluten allergy, you can let them know. They have a reserve of gluten-free crackers for their free samples. That's pretty gosh darn wonderful, don't you think?

It was very, very hard to pick which jam I wanted to go home with. The Strawberry Balsamic may have been my favorite (it's one of their top sellers, according to the lovely lady working the booth), and the Hot Pepper Jelly was one of the best I've ever had ("Wait till later in the season for hotter peppers," she told me, so I am.) But the jams I took home were the Sangria Jelly and the Hot Fireman's Pear Jam with Chipotle and Cinnamon. The latter paired wonderfully with the bread, and I was advised that it's killer on a grilled cheese. While I did not get to try the former, I can only imagine that a spanish cheese plate would provide the perfect home for it.

Alchemy Creamery - Berry and Ginger Vegan Ice Cream - $5

No heat is beat without a little help from some ice cream, and I've got to say that maybe the number one way to get me to try your food is by including "alchemy" in its name. I'd say that I was Nicholas Flamel in a past life, but everyone who's anyone knows that wouldn't make much sense.

The cool dudes behind the counter here know how to get people to come see what they have going on. They're aggressively charming to passersby-- so much so that the people they invite over actually do come over. That's a rare skill-- feeling invited to a stand by a vendor without also feeling accosted, or guilted, or both.

Their product speaks for itself: coconut-based ice creams, with the exception of the Cucumber Basil, which also had soy milk in it. I thought I was going to go with a stranger flavor like that, and while it was very delicious, I was surprised that I was leaning towards something a little more traditional.

But only marginally: after a winning sample of their Berry Ginger ice cream, I knew that's what I was getting. And boy, am I glad I did. They fold a generous scoop of candied ginger into your ice cream-- a wonderful consideration, so as to leave the ginger nice and soft.

For five dollars and the ability to say you staved off milk fat, it's a wonderful way to go.

And in retrospect, I didn't have an animal product once at the festival today.

Total Cost: $19

Best Part: Just marginally, Alchemy Creamery. But when you're at this level of excellence across the board, picking a favorite seems irrelevant/whimsical.


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